I was born in North London to a Scottish mother and American father and attended Highgate School. I won an exhibition to Emmanuel College Cambridge in 1966 to read History and after Part One I changed to the History of Art. During my gap year I taught English at the British Institute of Florence and it was in Florence that I acquired a passion for art history.
After graduating in 1971 I began lecturing at Croydon College of Art eventually becoming Senior Lecturer and Head of the Postgraduate Conservation Department. I also lectured in other London art colleges and was an early lecturer for NADFAS in the 1970’s. I eventually decided to go freelance and set up an art gallery with my wife in Highgate specialising in late 19th century paintings and Modern British, in particular the work of painters from the New English Art Club. We gave Peter Kuhfeld his first one-man exhibitions.
I continued lecturing part-time and when I retired having sold Highgate Gallery I applied to NADFAS to become an accredited lecturer. I have greatly enjoyed lecturing to the Arts Society over the last 10 years, both here in the UK and abroad.
I have written seven books and published many articles. I am also a practising artist and an elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists. I exhibit at the Mall Galleries and other galleries around the country.
My special period as an art historian is from about 1850 to 1920, a period rich with amazingly talented artists. I begin with the Pre-Raphaelites whom I see as radical and revolutionary painters who defied the old painting conventions of colour and composition. I love the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, but also explore the wonderful world of Symbolism which is often ignored. Social Realism of the 19th century is another interest and I have made a study of square brush painting introduced by Bastien-Lepage and keenly adopted by the Glasgow Boys, the Newlyn School and many English painters.
“I am interested in the private lives of artists, trying to show them as real people. For example I look at the relationship between Van Gogh and Gauguin at the Yellow House in Arles in 1888, I explore the private lives of the Pre-Raphaelites as well as the Impressionists.”
I find Modigliani’s sad but creative Bohemian life in Paris between 1906 and 1920 extraordinary despite its tragic ending.
I have always found the life of Misia Sert a fascinating subject – friend and patron of so many artists and musicians, financial supporter of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, concert pianist and close friend of Coco Chanel. For me it’s the people who make art history as fascinating as their work.